Latest Fire Owner's Story - Up on Tesla Blog Now

Latest Fire Owner's Story - Up on Tesla Blog Now

shop | November 9, 2013

Nice blog. Should boost stock price on Monday as the shorts scramble for the exits:-)

Thomas N. | November 9, 2013

I think he felt like it lifted the car up because it probably did. This looks like a P85+ which most likely has active air suspension which would give when the car is pushed hard from below.

I had a weird feeling reading it. Almost like it took two days for the statement to come out and he hit on all the key hot buttons. Like there was a script writer sitting next to him and saying "you might want to say THIS".

All in all I'd say my take was very positive and I'm happy to watch my wife and son drive away in the car.

jk2014 | November 9, 2013

Sounds similar to the pole vault or spearing action in the Seattle incident.

Benz | November 9, 2013

Perfect, that's what we needed. This is good, really good. I can see TSLA going up again on Monday.

Captain_Zap | November 9, 2013

It played out just the way I imagined it.
Great job, Tesla! I still feel safest in the Model S.

jk2014 | November 9, 2013

Most important thing is the guy felt safe (and relief) and would buy again in a heartbeat. Would love to see an interview of him describing what happened. Put all the conspiracy zealots to rest and see he's not motivated for profit or otherwise shady intentions...

Benz | November 9, 2013



Velo1 | November 9, 2013

@Benz - Tuesday, stock market closed Monday for Veterans Day.

I wish we had the option to keep the car from lowering, just to give the car more chance of clearing road debris.

carlk | November 9, 2013

What he said is the force that's strong enough to penetrate the battery would be strong enough to punch through the cabin and possibly injure the occupants if there were no battery pack there to provide the additional protection. The Tesla design is still the best to for safety of the people. Battery is always replaceable.

jk2014 | November 9, 2013

Carik -- great point. I think it would also very important for the public to see the hitch. Wonder if someone picked it up. Hopefully it's not on the road still!

Pricee2 | November 9, 2013

These occurrences make me wonder how many times road debris cause accidents that never make the news. Many years ago I was riding in a car that ran over some debris in the dark and it ripped out the steering mechanism and a brake line the car veered off the road over a curb and ended up on a church lawn. Fortunately we were only going 25mph so no injuries. As Forrest would say "stuff happens". Model S is proving just how safe it is.

Curt Renz | November 9, 2013

The driver will undoubtedly be providing quite favorable testimony to the NHTSA. Their interest is personal safety and not vehicle damage.

DTsea | November 9, 2013

i do wish i could set the car to stay at normal height instead of low at highway speed.

lolachampcar | November 9, 2013

The Faux Knows and Shorts will fan the fire flames if they can.

Less sensational and of less initial impact but of more long term importance is that hitting this type of debris can cost a minimum of $40K referb or $50K new if the battery is dented or a lot more if it is punctured and catches on fire. I think the idea that there is a armor solution that Tesla did not consider that would prevent these punctures is incorrect. Tesla did their homework and placed their battery protection bet. They have long been keenly aware that the underbelly is a vulnerable place for a battery pack and they took the steps they deemed necessary to protect it from damage and mitigate harm to occupants should the battery be damaged.

I think it will take an accurate analysis of fires across premium brands to address the fire starters.

I think it will take action on Tesla's part to address the out of proportion costs for floor damage least they face the type of buyer resistance they addressed with the improved battery warranty.

Suturecabre | November 9, 2013

I strongly feel they will at least send an update that makes the ride height user-selectable from normal to 2" lower, or they may do something that forces lowest setting to be higher, say 1". This is definitely the easiest and cheapest option to reduce these incidents, although we have no way of knowing the dimensions of the hitch and whether the extra inch or 2 would have made a difference. It would also get the least attention by the press, if at all, who barely understand how an air suspension works as it is.

A physical retrofit like Kevlar or front guard would definitely bring the issue back to the forefront again, and the spin would be one of admitting a flaw in design and subsequent stock price decrease. Maybe that's the only way to go though....If it could prevent another road debris fire from happening, it'd be worth it. After a little time passes and this dies down a bit, maybe it'll happen.

Sgt Barone | November 9, 2013

Glad to see this. The Tesla performed beautifully.

dlake | November 9, 2013

Thomas N-
It might have taken the owner 2 days to post for at least a few reasons:

1. It looks like this person is a physician. Physicians are usually very busy people.
2. After the fire, he probably was scrambling to line up another car to drive.
3. He may not be aware of the activity on the Tesla blog/forum website. Someone may have suggested he make a statement to the Tesla community.

I bet a 3-pronged trailer hitch would have done major damage to other high performance cars that ride low to the ground.

Sudre_ | November 9, 2013

He describes the hitch as a three prong tow hitch. There is no chance even with the suspension at standard height that it wouldn't have caused an issue.

The dimensions for these hitches are typically 9 x 6 x 12 inches.

The car would have to be higher than 6"s and on a perfectly flat road. Almost any car could have caught this thing. I'd say the ICE drivers were lucky the Tesla cleared it out of the roadway.

Maybe we should call Mythbusters and have them run over a few of these with a selection of BMWs, Lexus and others to see how they fair on average.

lolachampcar | November 9, 2013

I've got this life sized picture of the Mayhem guy in the back of a truck throwing trailer hitches in front of Teslas. Oh, and he's wearing an "I Shorted" shirt :)

lolachampcar | November 9, 2013

picture in my mind....

P85D | November 9, 2013

Cannot wait to pick up my Tesla on Tuesday!..


GeekEV | November 9, 2013

On a road trip my parents once ran over a section of gearbox pieces from a semi and it tore up their suspension, blew out the tire and destroyed the wheel and sent them crashing into a guard rail. I'm pretty sure that never made the news. No fire, luckily it went sideways instead of up into the engine bay, and everybody was ok. ;-)

bradslee | November 9, 2013

It reassures us the MS owners that our MS is indeed the safest car in the world. From our fellow MS owner's story, it sounds like someone (even we know it is a computer) is personally watching and guarding our safety while we are driving our MS. That sense of safety is beyond that any insurance we can buy from. I am so glad driving a MS. Thank you, Tesla Motors!

dlake | November 9, 2013

It will be interesting to see if/how these fires (not including Mexican fire) affect insurance rates.

If rates increase, I might be able to see their point of view (but I still dislike insurance companies). If a 3 prong tow hitch or large piece of metal was run over by a conventional ICE, it may ruin steering, suspension or sever some hoses, or even come through the floor, but it might not total the car. When the battery packs become punctured the batteries ignite so fiercely that the entire front of the car becomes engulfed in flames. Thanks to 16 firewalled compartments, the fire doesn't spread beyond the punctured compartment, so the passenger cabin remains intact. But the car is probably still totaled as far as the insurance company is concerned. Hope rates don't increase because all other features should compensate for this rare occurrence.

Anyone been affected yet?

negarholger | November 9, 2013

@lola - breaking news: trailer hitch market cornered - shorty bought them all. He has been spotted in the Bay Area dropping them on the 280...

In 44 years of driving I had one flat tire... eight years ago a blowout on 680 running over a trailer hitch. Fortunately I could control the car... otherwise if we went in the ditch and burnt to death we would have been part of the statistic but not the news.

mrspaghetti | November 9, 2013

The trouble is that the facts don't matter when it comes to stuff like this. Most people aren't going read this, they'll go with the headlines instead: "Tesla Catches Fire". End of research.

Captain_Zap | November 9, 2013

So, this is the second major accident involving a Model S in Tennessee with a driver that has the last name Shibayama?
What are the odds?

Sudre_ | November 9, 2013

Most people don't even know about the fires believe it or not. I came back from a hike today and there was a guy there that started asking me a lot of questions about my car. He was very interested. I even mentioned the fires to him and how they happened. He had not heard about the fires. He laughed and was not concerned about them. Like me he doesn't run over large metal debris on a regular basis and he doesn't race through cities at 120 mph.

Now what did peak one of my friends interest (it was not the battery fires at all) was the story they heard that Tesla missed all of their target 3rd quarter goals by a huge amount and they even profited less than they did last year and that was why the stock price dropped. I am curious what they are going to tell their oh so well informed associate Tuesday after I set them straight today.

eddiemoy | November 9, 2013

still think some group are intentionally putting these on the road where they notice tesla's traveling. on amazon, these things cost $33 each. place then on a lane and u have this issue again for sure!

some group has definitely found a weakness and trying to exploit it. when there are millions to make from shorting the stock, people will go to lengths to ruin companies. some one made 4-5 billion from the stock dropping with $33 trailer hitches!

Suturecabre | November 9, 2013

Wow, that's a really troubling thought! It's not enough to worry a group of bored teenage vandals might find it fun leaving tow hitches on the road for unsuspecting cars to drive over, but some nefarious group of high net worth investors purposely trying to manipulate the stock price?! I really hope we're way off base on that.

Sudre_, I'm sorry I can't help myself, but just wanted to point out that something would "pique" your interest....A stock price might "peak" (but not Tesla's!). | November 9, 2013


Was foraging around the web today and ran across this research report by the AAA. Its from 2004, but looking at the data, I would assume the data it is still pretty valid--the net is they estimate 25,000 accidents caused each year by road debris with approx 80-90 fatalities. Its well researched and interesting reading:


Brian H | November 9, 2013

the vehicle in front was a truck (pickup?) which passed over the hitch without harm. So you're right, there's no way luxury sedans, Tesla or other, are going to ride as high as a pickup on highways.

TM's choices are correct in this, IMO. I bet numerous prototypes and alphas and betas met their end testing those choices.

a front guard that throws debris (caltrop hitches etc.) up in front of the windshield? Bad idea. Very bad idea.

Brian H | November 9, 2013

Whachu talkin'?
Fire 1: Seattle
Fire 2: Mexico
Fire 3: Tennessee

Captain_Zap | November 9, 2013
So, this is the second major accident involving a Model S in Tennessee with a driver that has the last name Shibayama?
What are the odds?

Zero. Wrong universe.

Captain_Zap | November 9, 2013

@ BrianH

Remember the accident with the car that broke the utility pole in half and the lady was able to walk away? That was one of the first major single car accidents we learned about. Tennessee, same last name, same neighborhood.

NKinne | November 9, 2013

Posting a letter from the owner on Teslas homepage telling us the Tesla is a wonderful car. Is that the way to solve the problems Tesla is facing now? Would Toyota have done that in the same situation? Hmmm

Suturecabre | November 9, 2013

@Brian H

Jumping to conclusions much? I'm not advocating anything that would be able to throw debris up in front of you....By "front guard", I mean underneath the car, some sort of lip or barrier, towards the front that may be able to catch or deflect road trash out the sides before it has a chance to pierce the battery. I don't know how deep or recessed from the front something like that would be to work properly, and then there's also ground clearance to consider. Aside from encasing the entire battery in 1" steel, since the main threat comes from running over things, then the fortification should start with the front. Someone earlier proposed a curved shield. Something tapered perhaps? There are many possibilities.

elephant in a bottle | November 10, 2013

Were you referring to the other Tennessee accident?

Pungoteague_Dave | November 10, 2013


It is basic physics that anything protruding down from the car below the existing bottom could have the effect of catching road debris that would otherwise be missed, and flip it up into the battery. That's true even if the barrier goes all the way to the road. Think of the mass and speed involved. With any object less than a foot in height, the car is going to ride up and over it no matter what you do with the bottom. A deflector could also push the object into the tire path. I personally don't think there is any engineering problem here, but if TM decides to do something, it will likely be a materials tweak to the existing form, like anodized/hardened aluminum, a Kevlar or carbon fiber layer, or an alternative to the flammable coolant liquid.

Brian H | November 10, 2013

Was it? Here's the story I remember:


OK, after an hour or so of research, looks like assistant Kimberly Jill S. was the driver who hit the pole, and is referred to (unnamed) in Para. 1 of the blog post.

I imagine there's more to come on this.

JC1 | November 10, 2013

They'd have to be a pretty desperate short to go out and buy a bunch of trailer hitches, then find some rare Model S's out on the road, and then throw out trailer hitches in an attempt to have the car catch fire. If they're caught doing that with that type of intent, they're going straight to jail, and will pay for all the damages to not just the Model S, but other cars that might hit it, too.

Crazy conspiracy theories...

wmg | November 10, 2013

Velo1 | November 9, 2013

@Benz - Tuesday, stock market closed Monday for Veterans Day


Market is open tomorrow.

cadethoerk | November 10, 2013

Everybody needs to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture. In the short term the company will take a hit. In the long term, this will be forgoten and the company will be fine. Space X under, Mr. Musk, survived the spectacular failures of their first two rockets. He could have folded at that point but went all in and bet his last dime on the third launch that succeeded. The company is now building the only private launch vehicle to have attached to the ISS. This battery fires pale in comparison and will be dealt with. This is brand new tech and lessons will be learned along the way. In every instance, the occupant was unharmed and the security systems operated as designed. If pioneering tech were easy, everybody would be doing it. Nearly every succeed story was first met with failure.

thranx | November 10, 2013

@Sudre; most people I encounter haven't even heard about the car, let alone the fires.

But teens...they know all about it. It's tech.

tes-s | November 10, 2013

Wonder how much Tesla paid the owner to sign the story their marketing department wrote. Should at least give him a P85+, and he can pocket the cash from his insurance company.

tes-s | November 10, 2013

@KalOrtPor - a guard like one of these? Already comes in Tesla-red - could just bolt it on.

Curt Renz | November 10, 2013

The Tennessee driver's testimony should weigh heavily with the NHTSA whose concern is driver/passenger safety and not car damage. The NHTSA recently dubbed the Model S as being at least as safe if not safer than any other car. Having to rescind that would be an embarrassment to NHTSA officials. My expectation is that Tesla Motors will announce adjustments before any NHTSA investigation is complete, and the NHTSA will quietly nod that it is pleased.

ecarfan | November 10, 2013

This was posted over on TMC:

[QUOTE][url=]Originally Posted by SarahsDad[/url]
This is definitely more than a coincidence.

Kimberly Jill Shibayama, a 34 yo physicians assistant according to Google search, crashes a black Model S with gray wheels in Murfreesboro, TN in August.
Then Dr. Juris Shibayama, a 38 yo orthopedic surgeon practicing in Murfreesboro torches a black Model S with gray wheels in November?

Doubt she's his wife (that appears to be a Dr. Libby Shibayama) but maybe kid sister?
My bet is this is the same Tesla and Kimberly was test driving big brother's car[/QUOTE]

I Googled "kimberly jill and juris shibayama murfreesboro tn" and could not find any sort of link between them, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. Same uncommon last name, both have jobs in the healthcare industry, live in the same city, and were both driving a black S85 with grey wheels.

I read Dr Shibayama's blog post and was impressed with his clear description of the accident. Mirrors the experience of the other Tesla owner in Washington who hit road debris; the car is safe and very smart!

Of course hastily written news stories designed to grab viewers attention fail to provide clear analysis and context.

TheAustin | November 10, 2013

"KalOrtPor | NOVEMBER 9, 2013 NEW
I strongly feel they will at least send an update that makes the ride height user-selectable from normal to 2" lower, or they may do something that forces lowest setting to be higher, say 1"."

AGREED...This is the easiest and best possible solution. It keeps things relatively the same for the people who feel as though no change is necessary, but gives control to the people who would like to drive with the clearance set a bit higher.

PapaSmurf | November 10, 2013

This blog post about the 3rd Tesla fire won't be read by more than a few thousand hard core Tesla fanboys. Unless there are 3rd party news articles that write about it, it is irrelevant.

The theme is already established out in the public about Teslas catching on fire. 3 fires in 5 weeks is not good. The only thing that will fix this is time.

12 months without another fire happening is what is needed here. Nobody is going to care or read about the fine details of the owners buying another Tesla.

It would not surprise me if this is already having an impact on sales. 3 fires in 5 weeks, with the large amount of coverage on each, is likely pushing some borderline sales back to Audi, BMW or Mercedes.

People on this board likely are not in the category. But the more typical buyer is likely affected by this negative press. The stock could easily fall another 20% to 30% with reduced sales expectations.

jk2014 | November 10, 2013

Negative (click generating) media coverage on tesla has been the same for years. Pick one:

Burning batteries
Range problems
Losing money
Government subsidized

In sum, media "Broderization" makes money and gets views, clicks...